West Virginia lawmakers and policy experts met in Charleston Friday to discuss potential issues ahead of this year’s legislative session, which kicks off next week. The event, hosted by the West Virginia Press Association, brought about discussions of marijuana reform, education and the state budget.
More than five months into the fiscal year, revenue collections have surpassed estimates to the tune of more than $140 million. State officials expect that surplus to grow to $300 million by the end of the fiscal year on June 30.
That leaves many wondering how that additional revenue might influence the budget.
A rollback of the state’s business inventory tax is also expected to be considered this session. That measure, proposed by the Republican majority, would require two-thirds of lawmakers from both chambers and approval from state voters through a constitutional amendment.
With a pre-election promise from Gov. Jim Justice and Republican leaders, another pay raise for teachers and other state employees is expected to be discussed during the session.
Senate President Mitch Carmichael touted a plan to make community and technical college free for residents. A bill that would have accomplished just that failed to become law last session.
Fixing technical issues to the state's medical marijuana program, which is scheduled to take effect July 1, is also expected to garner attention this year.
Del. Mike Pushkin, a Democrat, said he plans to take marijuana reform one step further and introduce a bill to decriminalize the drug. Pushkin said he expects other bills that deal with the drug’s legalization -- including adult recreational use -- to be introduced.
The 60-day legislative session begins Wednesday, Jan. 9.